The Astros were on their way to allowing their current weakness to undermine another shot at victory before they showed more of the same late-inning magic that has carried them this week.
Through six innings on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park, the Astros were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. They had stranded seven baserunners, including two each in the second and third innings after they scored single runs off Yankees right-hander Jonathan Loaisiga and appeared poised to knock him out of the game. Their first two batters reached in the fifth inning yet the Astros didn't score. Josh Reddick reached second on a hit and an error with one out in the sixth, and he was stranded on second base when that inning came to a close.
The Astros plated four runs in their final two at-bats, defeated the Yankees 6-3, and set the table for a sweep of this three-game series on Wednesday. But after entering the day with a .171/.293/.293 slash line with runners in scoring position, it's easy to wonder how the Astros collectively sidestep feelings of frustration over their inconsistent situational hitting.
"No, we don't get frustrated," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said after Michael Brantley delivered a run-scoring double with Alex Bregman at second in the seventh and George Springer roped a two-run double with the bases loaded in the eighth. "We certainly know what's going on but I'm not sure how frustrated you can get when Tony Kemp hits a ball to the wall (with two on in the second) or Yuli (Gurriel) hits a line drive to the wall (with two on in the third). It's a tough sport. These guys want to do well, but I don't see us carrying it with us. We've got a good offense."
Right-hander Collin McHugh (1-1, 2.45 ERA) will start for the Astros on Wednesday. He allowed just one run over six innings in his previous outing, a 3-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics on April 5. McHugh is 2-1 with a 4.26 ERA over five career appearances (three starts) against the Yankees. He did not factor in the decision in his two relief appearances against the Yankees last season, surrendering one run on two hits and one walk with four strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings.
Left-hander James Paxton (1-1, 4.09 ERA) will work opposite McHugh for the Yankees. He will work on extended rest in what will be his third start for the Yankees. He recorded nine strikeouts, the most by a Yankees pitcher this season, over 5 1/3 innings in his previous appearance. Paxton is 7-3 with a 2.89 ERA over 12 career starts against the Astros and won all four starts against Houston last season while pitching for the Seattle Mariners. He is 4-1 with a 3.18 ERA in seven starts at Minute Maid Park.
Despite all of their power, the Yankees have been undermined by mental miscues against the Astros. Whether it's Brett Gardner failing to run out a swinging bunt he assumed was a foul ball or Loaisiga and shortstop Gleyber Torres colliding at third base while trying to cover the bag, the Yankees have committed just enough mistakes to provide the Astros an added advantage.
"It's got to be better, especially when you're playing a really good team," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "You've got to do the little things that allow you to win ballgames. We're really close to playing a really good brand and a complete game, but we're just having a breakdown here and there that are really costing us."
--Field Level Media
Yankees need to cut back on mistakes vs. Astros